Spare the rod, say some May 29th 2008

In rich countries at least, parents and teachers are steadily losing the right to discipline children by force. “AS PART of their daily lives, children across Europe and the world continue to be spanked, slapped, hit, smacked, shaken, kicked, pinched, punched, caned, flogged, belted, beaten and battered in the name of discipline, mainly by adults whom they depend on.” But in some places, it happens less than before, and there is a chance to stop it altogether. That is how the Council of Europe, a 47-country body that is supposed to promote civil liberties from Dublin to Vladivostok, explains its campaign to abolish physical punishment—to be launched in Croatia in mid-June with a flurry of debates, puppet shows, television spots, pamphlets in many languages and stirring calls to “raise your hand against smacking”.

..Just over a year ago New Zealand became the first English-speaking country to ban smacking. A lobby group, Family First, is agitating to reverse that change, saying at least half the population supports the right to smack. But few people expect the ban to be overturned. The police were reassured when they won the right to apply the law with discretion, and there have been no silly prosecutions. Some of New Zealand’s pro-smackers lost support because their religious rhetoric—talk of loving corrections, followed by prayers—sounded weird.

..But diehard American spankers may take comfort from defying the latest piece of Utopian dottiness from the UN: a campaign to end the corporal punishment of children, all over the world, by 2009. Whatever the merits of a ban on smacking, this wildly unrealistic goal is hardly the top priority for an organisation that has failed to crack down on far worse forms of abuse by its own blue-helmeted soldiers.